What are we dealing with here?

Transsexualism is a treatable medical condition in which a person’s sense of core-gender (sometimes called ‘brain-sex’) does not correspond with their apparent physical-gender.

What does this involve for my employee?

Your employee will have been diagnosed by an experienced medical practitioner. They will most likely begin their transition by starting hormone therapy (testosterone) under the guidance of a medical professional. Testosterone therapy with will begin to masculinise his appearance. He will develop facial and body hair, his voice will deepen and his musculature will increase. This process takes six months to a year.

While not all people chose to have surgery, most men will undergo chest reconstructive surgery to create a contoured male chest. The extent of time off work varies according to the needs of the individual and the type of work he is engaged in. Time off for recovery may range from two to four weeks. It is unlawful to dismiss an individual from work because of impending medical treatment.

While some people are willing to discuss the details of their transition openly with fellow employees, others will prefer to keep their personal medical details private. Don’t ask specific details about surgical procedures unless invited to do so. It is illegal for employers to breach the privacy of any employee. The right to disclose or discuss one’s medical history is always the prerogative of the individual.

What should I do, as an employer, when first notified?

Gender transition can be a stressful process. The perceived reaction of work colleagues is one of the more stressful aspects. Whoever the employee chooses to talk to in the first instance should reassure him that the company and/or employer will be as supportive as possible.

How can we make the transition as smooth as possible?

The next step is to arrange a meeting with the employee and their supervisor or manager to have a more detailed discussion and agree on a plan for handling the transition in the workplace.

What should happen at this meeting?

Ideally, the employer (usually the employee’s supervisor or manager) and the employee, will write an action plan together to manage the work related aspects of the transition.

“I had a one-on-one meeting with him to discuss the way he wanted it handled. We then held small immediate team meetings (groups of four) and discussed it with HR to resource material and information. We then briefed all the managers and gave information sheets to the teams.The meetings gave an opportunity for workers to raise concerns and have them answered. We then timetabled an action plan ie. using male toilets and locker-rooms, name change etc. Only a few limited issues and concerns were raised. These issues never eventuated and the transition is going well.”
– Employer, South Australia

Issues to be decided at the meeting should include:

  • Anticipated date of change of name and other personal details;
  • Agreements regarding use of toilet facilities and standards of dress and grooming (if different for male employees);
  • How the employee wishes to inform the workplace, fellow employees or clients;
  • The expected time frame and anticipated time off work for medical or surgical procedures.

As with all meetings between employer and employee, notes made are confidential and must be kept with the employee’s personnel file. Once the employee has completed the workplace transition, these records within the personnel file must removed and destroyed.

Will medical treatment impact my employee’s work schedule?

Your employee in transition will undergo a number of medical procedures. Discussion with the employee can identify what time off they will need. Time off for surgical procedures must be treated the same as other medically necessary procedures.